Sepsis: Approach to Care

You may have heard the word SEPSIS before and ignored it, not quite sure what it means or why it matters. You are not alone - nearly half of Americans have never heard of the condition and more than a third cannot identify all of the symptoms. 

Unfortunately, there are over one million cases of sepsis each year in the U.S. and it is the nation’s third leading killer with more than 258,000 deaths annually (more than AIDS, prostate cancer and breast cancer combined.)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers sepsis a medical emergency, similar to a stroke or heart attack. Time is the enemy for patients with sepsis as their bodies are mounting a massive, life-threatening response to infection that can destroy tissue and damage organs in a matter of minutes. With sepsis, seconds count!

This is why physicians, nurses and all staff at UF Health have new tools and procedures to identify sepsis and respond quickly with treatment. We have a review committee who analyzes sepsis cases to improve care and scientists at the UF Sepsis and Critical Illness Research Center are working to prevent sepsis, minimize its damage and improve long-term survival. In fact, UF Health is at the forefront at implementing all the recommendations of the CDC, which include:

  • Preventing infections
  • Educating patients and families
  • Acting fast, and
  • Reassess patient management

What you can do to help

  • Get vaccinated against the flu, pneumonia and any other infections that could lead to sepsis. Talk to your doctor for more information, including ways to optimize the treatment of chronic medical conditions that may lower the chance of sepsis occurring.
  • Prevent infections that can lead to sepsis by cleaning scrapes and wounds and practicing good hygiene (e.g. hand washing, bathing regularly). Follow all infection control requirements (e.g. hand hygiene) for anyone you are visiting in the hospital.
  • Educate yourself about the signs and symptoms, which include fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, rash, confusion and disorientation. Ask, “Could it be sepsis?” and get immediate medical attention if you suspect sepsis is present.
  • Be aware that the elderly (≥65 years old), premature infants or children < 1 year old, patients with weakened immune systems and chronic, serious illnesses are the most at risk for sepsis, including intensive care unit (ICU) patients, after surgery or trauma.
  • If you or a family member have had sepsis, tell others about your experience. Use the word sepsis in conversation. General infection control for families is very important in preventing secondary infections. If you see something, say something. Even the smallest changes in the critically ill can mean a lot. Never wait, if you have a concern, always ask for help.
  • Donate to sepsis awareness programs and sepsis research programs. Write your legislators to support funding for sepsis research. 

Read about UF Health’s team effort to combat sepsis.

Read about the UF Sepsis and Critical Illness Research Center’s latest research.

Learn more about this topic and how you can help at http://www.sepsis.org/ and http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/sepsis/. 

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